6 November 1956|
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment|
|Spouse(s)||Michelle Martin (1989–2003)|
Span of killings
|13 August 1996|
Marc Dutroux (French: [dytʀu]; born 6 November 1956) is a Belgian serial killer and child molester, convicted of having kidnapped, tortured and sexually abused six girls from 1995 to 1996, ranging in age from 8 to 19, four of whom he murdered. His wife, Michelle Martin, was convicted as an accomplice. Dutroux was also convicted of having killed a suspected former accomplice, Bernard Weinstein. He was arrested in 1996 and has been in prison ever since, though he briefly escaped in April 1998.
Earlier, in 1989, Dutroux and Martin had been sentenced to 13 and a half and 5 years imprisonment, respectively, for the abduction and rape of five young girls, the youngest of whom was eleven years old. Dutroux was released after serving three years.
Dutroux's widely publicised trial took place in 2004. A number of shortcomings in the Dutroux investigation caused widespread discontent in Belgium with the country's criminal justice system, and the ensuing scandal was one of the reasons for the reorganisation of Belgium's law enforcement agencies.
Born in Ixelles, Belgium, on 6 November 1956, Dutroux was the oldest of five children. His parents, both teachers, emigrated to the Belgian Congo, but returned to Belgium at the start of the Congo Crisis when Dutroux was four. They separated in 1971 and Dutroux stayed with his mother.
He married at the age of 19 and fathered two children; the marriage ended in divorce in 1983. By then he had already had an affair with Michelle Martin. They would eventually have three children together, and married in 1989 while both were in prison. They divorced in 2003, also while in prison.
He has been described by psychiatrists who examined him for trial as a psychopath.
An often unemployed electrician, Dutroux had a long criminal history including convictions for car theft, muggings and drug dealing. Dutroux's criminal career also involved the trade of stolen cars to Czechoslovakia and Hungary; all of these activities gained him enough money to live in relative comfort in Charleroi, a city in Hainaut province that had high unemployment at the time and has had for decades. He owned seven small houses, most of them vacant, and used three of them for the torture of the girls he kidnapped. In his residence in Marcinelle near Charleroi, he constructed a concealed dungeon in the basement. Hidden behind a massive concrete door disguised as a shelf, the cell was 2.15 m (7 ft) long, less than 1 m (3 ft) wide and 1.64 m (5 ft) high.
First arrest and release
In February 1986, Dutroux and Martin were arrested for abducting and raping five young girls. In April 1989, Dutroux was sentenced to thirteen and a half years in prison. Martin received a sentence of five years. Showing good behaviour in prison, Dutroux was released on parole in April 1992, having served only three years, by Justice Minister Melchior Wathelet. Upon his release the parole board received a letter from Dutroux's own mother to the prison director, in which she stressed concern that he was keeping young girls captive in his house – which was essentially ignored.
Following his release from prison, Dutroux convinced a psychiatrist that he was psychiatrically disabled, resulting in a government pension. He also received prescriptions of sleeping pills and sedatives, which he would later use on his victims.
Abductions after arrest
Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo (both aged eight) were kidnapped together from Grâce-Hollogne on 24 June 1995, probably by Dutroux, and imprisoned in Dutroux's cellar. Dutroux repeatedly sexually abused the girls and produced pornographic videos of the abuse.
On 22 August 1995, Dutroux kidnapped 17-year-old An Marchal and 19-year-old Eefje Lambrecks who were on a camping trip in Ostend. He was probably assisted by his accomplice Michel Lelièvre, who was paid with drugs. Since the dungeon already contained Lejeune and Russo, Dutroux chained the girls to a bed in a room of his house. His wife was aware of all these activities.
In late 1995, Dutroux was arrested by police for involvement in a stolen luxury car racket. He was held in custody for three months between 6 December 1995 and 20 March 1996. Police searched Dutroux's house on 13 December 1995 and again six days later in relation to the car theft charge. During this time, Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo were still alive in the basement dungeon, but in spite of their cries being heard, police failed to discover them. Michelle Martin allegedly fed her husband's German shepherd dogs but did not follow his orders to feed the girls, later claiming she was too afraid to go into the dungeon. Lejeune and Russo starved to death, and were later buried in bin bags in the back garden.
Two months after his release, Dutroux, with help from Lelièvre, kidnapped 12-year-old Sabine Dardenne who was on her way to school on 28 May 1996. She was imprisoned by him, once again, in the dungeon where he had kept his previous victims.
Third arrest and discovery of the crimes
On 9 August 1996, Dutroux and Lelièvre kidnapped 14-year-old Laetitia Delhez as she was walking home from a public swimming pool. An eyewitness had earlier observed Dutroux's van, described it and identified part of the license plate. Dutroux, his wife, and Lelièvre were all arrested on 13 August 1996. An initial search of his houses proved inconclusive, but two days later, Dutroux and Lelièvre both made confessions. Dutroux led the police to the basement dungeon where Dardenne and Delhez were found alive on 15 August 1996. In an interview conducted several years later, Dardenne revealed that Dutroux had told her that she had been kidnapped by a gang but her parents did not want to pay the ransom and the gang was planning to kill her. Dutroux said he saved her, and that he was not one of the gang members she should fear. He let her write letters to her family, which he read but never sent.
On 17 August 1996, Dutroux led police to another of his houses in Sars-la-Buissière in Hainaut province. The bodies of Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo as well as an accomplice, Bernard Weinstein, were found in the garden. An autopsy found that the two girls had died from starvation. Dutroux said he had crushed Weinstein's testicles until he gave him money, then drugged him and buried him alive. Later Dutroux told the police where to find the bodies of An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks. They were located on 3 September 1996 in Jumet in Hainaut, buried under a shack next to a house owned by Dutroux. Weinstein had lived in that house for three years.
Criticism of police investigations
Authorities were criticised for various aspects of the case. Several incidents suggest that despite several warnings, the authorities did not properly follow up on Dutroux's intentions. Dutroux had offered money to a police informant to provide him with girls and told him that he was constructing a cell in his basement. His mother also wrote a second letter to the police, claiming that he held girls captive in his houses. Dutroux was actually under police camera surveillance the night he kidnapped Marchal and Lambrecks; however, the police had only programmed the camera to operate during the daylight hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Perhaps most notably, the police search of Dutroux's house on 13 December 1995 and again six days later in relation to his car theft charge came under harshest scrutiny. During this time, Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo were still alive in the basement dungeon, but the police failed to discover them. Since the search was unrelated to kidnapping charges, police searching the house had no dogs or specialised equipment that might have discovered the girls' presence, and in an otherwise decrepit and dirty basement, they failed to recognize the significance of the freshly plastered and painted wall that concealed the dungeon. While in the basement, a locksmith who was accompanying the police said he heard children's cries coming from inside the house, but was overruled by the police, who concluded the cries must have come from the street outside. This was especially remarkable since the country was at that time in the midst of a nationwide search for missing children.
Several videotapes were also seized from the house that showed Dutroux constructing the secret entrance and the dungeon where the girls were then held. The tapes were never viewed by the police, who later claimed this was because they did not have a videotape player.
Allegations of cover-up
There was widespread anger and frustration among Belgians due to police errors, the general slowness of the investigation and the disastrous outcome of the events. This suspicion that Dutroux had been, or was being, protected was raised when the public became aware of Dutroux's claims that he was part of a sex ring that included high-ranking members of the police force and government. This suspicion, along with general anger over the outcome, culminated with the popular judge in charge of investigating the claims, Jean-Marc Connerotte, being dismissed on the grounds of having participated in a fund-raising dinner for the girls' parents. The investigation itself was wrapped up on the grounds of conflict of interest. His dismissal and the end of the investigation resulted in a massive protest march (the "White March") of 300,000 people on the capital, Brussels, in October 1996, two months after Dutroux's arrest, in which demands were made for reforms of Belgium's police and justice system.
On the witness stand, Jean-Marc Connerotte, the original judge of the case, broke down in tears when he described "the bullet-proof vehicles and armed guards needed to protect him against the shadowy figures determined to stop the full truth coming out. Never before in Belgium has an investigating judge at the service of the king been subjected to such pressure. We were told by police that [murder] contracts had been taken out against the magistrates." Connerotte testified that the investigation was seriously hampered by protection of suspects by people in the government. "Rarely has so much energy been spent opposing an inquiry," he said. He believed that the Mafia had taken control of the case.
Parliamentary investigation and escape from custody
A 17-month investigation by a parliamentary commission into the Dutroux affair produced a report in February 1998, which concluded that while Dutroux did not have accomplices in high positions in the police and justice systems, as he continued to claim, he profited from corruption, sloppiness and incompetence.
Public indignation flared up again in April 1998. While being transferred to a court house without handcuffs, Dutroux overpowered one of his guards, took his gun and escaped. Police in his native Belgium, and in France, Luxembourg and Germany placed their police forces on an "all-borders alert" along with a major manhunt. He was caught a few hours later. The Minister of Justice Stefaan De Clerck, the Minister of the Interior Johan Vande Lanotte, and the police chief resigned as a result. In 2000, Dutroux received a five-year sentence for threatening a police officer during his escape. In 2002, he received another five-year sentence for unrelated crimes.
Dutroux's trial began on 1 March 2004, some seven and a half years after his initial arrest. It was a trial by jury and up to 450 people were called upon to testify. The trial took place in Arlon, the capital of the Belgian province of Luxembourg, where the investigations had started. Dutroux was tried for the murder of An Marchal, Eefje Lambrecks and Bernard Weinstein, a suspected accomplice. While admitting the abductions, he denied all three killings, although he had earlier confessed to killing Weinstein. Dutroux was also charged with a host of other crimes: auto theft, abduction, attempted murder and attempted abduction, molestation, and three unrelated rapes of women from Slovakia.
Martin was tried as an accomplice, as were Lelièvre and Michel Nihoul. To protect the accused, they were made to sit in a glass cage during the trial. In the first week of the trial, photos of Dutroux's face were not allowed to be printed in Belgian newspapers for privacy reasons; this ban remained in force until March 9. Throughout the trial, Dutroux continued to insist that he was part of a Europe-wide paedophile ring with accomplices among police officers, businessmen, doctors, and even high-level Belgian politicians.
In a rare move, the jury at the Assize trial publicly protested the presiding judge Stéphane Goux's handling of the debates and the victims' testimonies. On 14 June 2004, after three months of trial, the jury went into seclusion to reach their verdicts on Dutroux and the three other accused. Verdicts were returned on 17 June 2004 after three days of deliberation. Dutroux, Martin and Lelièvre were found guilty on all charges; the jury were unable to reach a verdict on Michel Nihoul's role.
On 22 June, Dutroux received the maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while Martin received 30 years and Lelièvre 25 years. Michel Nihoul was later acquitted from the charge of being an offender on kidnapping and murder of the girls by the court. The jury was asked to go back into seclusion to decide whether or not Michel Nihoul was an accomplice. On 23 June, Dutroux lodged an appeal against his sentence. Dutroux is currently being held in solitary confinement at Nivelles Prison.
On 4 February 2013, Dutroux requested to a court in Brussels for an early release from prison. He insisted that he was "no longer dangerous" and wanted to be released into house arrest with an electronic tag placed upon him. On 18 February, the court had his request denied.
Marc Dutroux owned seven houses, four of which he used for his kidnappings:
- The house on the Route de Philippeville 128 in Marcinelle is most often cited in the media. All girls were held captive here in the basement and bedroom.
The municipality of Charleroi seized ownership of this house, because of what happened there and the bad state of the house. There are plans to create an open space with a memorial site here. In the Belgian procedure of compulsory purchase, an owner has a last right to visit a house. Therefore, Dutroux visited this house on 10 September 2009, under heavy police guard.
- A house in Jumet, that has since been demolished. An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks were buried in the garden of this house by Dutroux. Bernard Weinstein lived in this house for a while. A small monument is placed at this location.
- A house in Marchienne-au-Pont. Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo were held captive here for a short while after their kidnapping.
- A house in Sars-la-Buissière. Lejeune, Russo and Weinstein were buried here after Dutroux killed them. The house was bought by the municipality of Lobbes in the first months of 2009. It is planned to make a park with a monument commemorating the victims of Dutroux here.
Murals on a wall opposite the house in Marcinelle.
Location of the house of Dutroux in Jumet.
House owned by Dutroux in Marchienne-au-Pont.
- Inline citations
- "Marc Dutroux". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2009.
- "Evil Belgian found guilty". The Telegraph India. Calcutta. 17 June 2002. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- "Profile: Marc Dutroux". BBC News. London: BBC. 17 June 2004. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
- Moulaert, Frank (2000). Globalization and Integrated Area Development in European Cities. Oxford University Press. p. 86.
- "Charleroi: the most depressing city in Europe becomes more depressing by the day". The Telegraph. 29 March 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
- "Marc Dutroux ställdes öga mot öga med sitt offer". DN.SE. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
- Van Heeswyck,Marie-Jeanne; Bulté, Annemie; De Coninck, Douglas; The X-Dossiers, 1999.
- Black, Ian (28 February 2004). "Eight years on, Dutroux appears in court – but will the truth be heard?". BBC News. Retrieved 6 December 2010.
- "Dutroux affair haunts Belgian police". BBC. 22 January 2002. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
- "Articles about Marc Dutroux". LATimes.com. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
- "Belgian furious as child killer Marc Dutroux wife Michelle is freed". The Independent. Associated Press. 22 August 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
- Serial Killers: Monster of Belgium (Television Production). Silver Spring, Maryland, US: Discovery Communications. 2008.
- Bell, Rachael. "Marc Dutroux, A Pedophile and Child-Killer". trutv. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
- Helm, Toby (17 August 2001). "Belgium accused of cover-up in Dutroux inquiry". Telegraph.co.uk. Brussels. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
- Osborn, Andrew (25 January 2002). "Belgium still haunted by paedophile scandal". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
- Evans-Pritchard, Ambrose (5 March 2004). "Judge tells of murder plots to block Dutroux investigation". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 28 September 2007.
- Downing, John (24 April 1998). "Disbelief as Dutroux flees court". Irish Independent. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
- "Dutroux trial to revive Belgium's trauma". The Irish Times. 1 March 2004. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
- Marc Dutroux at Kriminalstika.eu. Retrieved 12 July 2015
- Siuberski, Phillipe (9 March 2004). "Dutroux lashes out at media". The Age. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
- "Belgium court denies Marc Dutroux release". BBC News. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
- "Belgian paedophile Dutroux guilty of rape and murder". The Irish Times. 18 June 2004. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
- "Belgium's Dutroux 'lodges appeal'". BBC News (BBC). 23 June 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
- "Marc Dutroux op 4 februari voor strafuitvoeringsrechtbank voor enkelband" [Marc Dutroux in court on 4 February to get ankle bracelet]. De Standaard. 27 December 2012.
- "Belgians demand pedophile accomplice stays in jail". Sacbee News. 19 August 2012.
- "Marc Dutroux: Child Killer Wants Early Release". Sky News (BSkyB). 4 February 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
- "Belgium court denies Marc Dutroux release". BBC News. 18 February 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
- "Belgian paedophile's namesakes change surnames". BBC News. 10 January 1998. Retrieved 10 September 2008.
- De Bock, Steven (11 September 2009). "Dutroux nog één keer naar huis" [Dutroux even home once]. De Standaard (in Dutch). Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- General references
- The official indictment
- BBC News on Sabine Dardenne
- Dutroux at CrimeLibrary
- United Nations High Commission on Human Rights report criticizing changes in the Belgian Constitution due to the case
- Media related to Marc Dutroux at Wikimedia Commons